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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Mayor Condon vetoes new sick-leave mandate

Spokane Mayor David Condon has vetoed a policy requiring local businesses to provide up to five days of paid sick leave, calling it “a difficult decision, but a deliberative one.”

The veto was expected from Condon, who has opposed the policy since it was first discussed last year. Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said an override of the veto is assured, as it requires only five votes and the City Council passed the policy 6-1 earlier this month. Only Councilman Mike Fagan opposed it.

Condon said his veto stemmed from his opinion that such employment requirements should be mandated by state government, not a local municipality. He added that he would not lobby for such a change in state law.

“I do not believe that this is the right way to go for our small businesses,” Condon said.

Calling the law “arbitrary,” Condon said his decision to veto also came from a lack of clarity on how the city would enforce the new requirements, or how much it would cost the city. He suggested he prefers incentives to requirements.

“I’m more of a carrot than a stick type of person,” Condon said.

Condon said he hoped his veto would spur the council to have a “more inclusive” discussion about sick leave, leading to legislation the council and administration worked on together.

“It needs much more deliberative thought,” Condon said.

The city rule will require most businesses to provide paid sick leave. Businesses with fewer than 10 workers must provide three days of sick leave, and businesses with 10 or more must provide five days. Businesses would have to provide employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work until they reach 24 hours or 40 hours, depending on the size of the business.

Construction workers would be exempt from the requirement, as would those in work-study positions and seasonal and temporary employees. The leave could be used for sickness, bereavement, to take care of a sick loved one or to deal with a domestic violence situation.

The rule would not take effect until 2017.

Stuckart criticized Condon for the veto and promised an override of the veto was forthcoming, maybe as early as Monday.

“I was not alerted there was a press conference and I still have heard nothing from the mayor. I don’t even know his reason for vetoing it, quite frankly,” Stuckart said. “I would hope that he listened to the three and a half hours of testimony. That would’ve convinced anybody with an open mind.”

Stuckart said he had made it clear during his run for re-election that the council would pass a sick leave ordinance, and he pointed to nearly a year of discussion that led to the vote earlier this month.

“This is the longest and most detailed outreach and process the council has ever done on a piece of legislation,” Stuckart said.

Though Stuckart said the idea for paid sick leave was first discussed by Councilwoman Candace Mumm and former Councilman Jon Snyder during their 2013 campaigns, for many people the discussion began last February, when Stuckart and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., promoted paid sick leave at a restaurant on South Perry Street. Murray was in town to discuss the Healthy Families Act, a bill she introduced in Congress with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, that would allow American workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave a year.

Last summer, a stakeholder group was formed to hash out the particulars of the city’s policy, and the ordinance was teed up for council approval. At the last minute, council members delayed the vote until after the election season.

Stuckart said he “reached out to more than 400 businesses,” giving them detailed descriptions of the policy and asking for feedback.

“Ninety percent, I didn’t hear from,” Stuckart said.

Condon and Stuckart agreed that such employment law decisions are best done by the state Legislature. Condon, however, doesn’t want the state to create such burdens, and Stuckart was skeptical the state would act at all.

“It would be better to have the state pass a law. I agree,” Stuckart said. “But I think local cities innovating pushes the state and federal government to act. We should be leading.”